London: A British judge on Wednesday formally approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States to face spying charges. The case will now go to Britain’s Home Secretary for a decision, and the WikiLeaks founder still has legal avenues of appeal.
The order, which brings extradition closer, comes after the UK Supreme Court last month refused Assange permission to appeal against a lower court’s ruling that he could be extradited.
A judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court issued the order in a brief hearing, as Assange watched by video link from Belmarsh Prison. Home Secretary Priti Patel will now decide whether to grant the extradition.
The move doesn’t exhaust the legal options for Assange, who has sought for years to avoid a trial in the US on charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of a huge trove of classified documents more than a decade ago.
His lawyers have four weeks to make submissions to Patel, and can also seek to appeal to the High Court.
Assange lawyer Mark Summers told the court that the legal team had “serious submissions” to make.
The US has asked British authorities to extradite Assange so he can stand trial on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse. American prosecutors say Assange unlawfully helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later published, putting lives at risk.